Raph Koster today posted an article proposing that the reason people flock to games similar to ones they have already played is because they have no easy way of finding the alternatives. I agree! That’s a HUGE problem! How can I convince anyone Pi Story is a good game when they assume all MMOs must be 3D? How can I convince myself that oh, I dunno, Age of Conan is a game I’d like without going to the effort of buying it and installing it?
I really like Nexus: Kingdom of the Wind before EQ came out. What games are like that NOW? Without having a complete knowledge of all MMOs available, you can’t know. Raph even points to a comment to a Keen and Graev post that does a decent job of “sequencing” the modern EQ-type MMO (this includes WoW and its descendants).
Coldheat and I talked a lot about this last night. I talked about how we can look at modern MMOs as continually adding complexity (and in some cases, removing complexity) from older games (like Rogue, Colossal Cave Adventures, Risk), and how each decision made by a game designer could be thought of as adding, deleting or rearranging “genes”. Successful genes — design decisions — would be passed on to new games. Unsuccessful ones would not be copied.
Weighting these genes appropriately (which is the hard part), you could tell how similar two games were, which ancestors they shared, and hopefully, how much you might like a game given games you already liked. Or even more fun, proposing a bunch of characteristics (like Guild Wars, but with mandatory grouping and permadeath…) and getting a list selected from all the hundreds of MMOs that meets your needs.
So this morning, as I was setting up Shifter, my Shapeshifter solver, which required setting up some Python stuff since I hadn’t run Shifter since I re-installed Linux on Baphomet, I was thinking about what a web-based front end to such a database might look like. And today I am browsing Wired.com and see an article about the Python-based web framework, Django.
I’d briefly used other Python web frameworks, like Turbogears, but that was too much like work. I’d thought about making some Ruby on Rails stuff when I was between jobs, but I had nothing in particular to make with it, so that died. At work we use Struts and Hibernate with Java, and that REALLY seems like too much work. But a really simple Python-based framework…
So it’s all coming together. Since I have Friday off, I might use that time to try and pull together a data entry page so I can start breaking down the very earliest RPGs and MUDs into their component features. I think this “sequencing” of games will likely take the longest — how do you enumerate every feature in WoW? There must be millions. But until I get to entering data, I won’t know what the important ones are, the ones that by their very inclusion, advanced the genre. And this page must be robust, because if it works out, I will be making it public to hopefully get other people to help analyze the games they play.
I did something similar with my old book collection using keyword fields in a Q&A 4.0 database 20 years ago. Plot elements — time travel, romance, horror, elves, etc — cover artists, everything. But I never did much with it (aside from looking up cover artists) because I was pretty familiar with the books I had already read. Here, though, I will be entering information for games I have never played. So we’ll see how that goes.
I have lots of projects I start and never finish, but I think there is a real need for a MMO database that goes beyond just name and genre, and tells you its features in a way that can be compared and contrasted to other MMOs. So maybe I’ll be able to make time for this.